Bringing history to life

Lily Skelton, our Oral History Project Administrator, shares a bit about this exciting new project and what it will involve

26 February 2021

The newest recruit to St Christopher’s CARE is Lily Skelton who joined in February as Administrator on our Oral Histories Project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Lily reveals what attracted her to the job, what oral history really means and how this project will help the community tell their part in the birth and growth of St Christopher’s.

What are oral histories?

Lily Skelton
Lily Skelton

It’s not a lofty concept – it’s about collecting the stories of people involved in a chapter of history, whatever their role, and then keeping that history alive forever. The mix of voices helps provide real insight and means there’s a really diverse account of the history you’re trying to tell.

What are you hoping the project will achieve?

We want to capture the story of the early pioneers of the hospice and to get their voices and their stories by recording their recollections. Given that St Christopher’s started more than 50 years ago, a lot of them are now in old age, so now is the time.

We know that St Christopher’s played a big part in people’s lives, not just those people who were instrumental in setting it up and establishing the hospice as we know it today. It also touched, shaped and changed the lives of many people in the community. So, we’ll be looking to reach out to people in the local area whose relatives were cared for here in the early days, as well as people from across the country whose lives might have been touched by St Christopher’s.

It means I can help disseminate history, take it out of the lecture theatre and enable communities to feel a part of it and shape it. 

What attracted you to the job?

I recently completed a degree in History and French and studied oral history as part of that. I’m also a local and have had relatives, including my great grandfather, cared for by St Christopher’s. So, when I saw it advertised, it just seemed like the ideal job for me. It means I can help disseminate history, take it out of the lecture theatre and enable communities to feel a part of it and shape it. 

How will you go about collecting the oral histories?

Once Daniel the Project Lead comes on board in March, we’ll be able to start recruiting volunteers. We’ll then train them to record the interviews, hopefully starting in April and, COVID-dependent, these will be conducted in person. The aim is that, once we start sharing them, this will then inspire other people to take part. 

What will you do with the oral histories?

The aim is to gather as much new material as possible including interviews with both professionals and members of the community as well as artefacts and then display these in an exhibition in St Christopher’s Centre for Awareness and Response to End of Life. Visitors will be able to listen to clips, read transcripts and view the artefacts. The new material will sit alongside items from the archive we already have here, much of it relating to Dame Cicely Saunders and Dr Mary Baines. I’m guessing the many unopened boxes will prove a real treasure trove. As well as the exhibition the project will have its own website and social media presence too – to ensure that as many people as possible can access the content.

If you’d like to contribute to the project, please contact

26 February 2021

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